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Voting rights group files suit against Trump, administration officials alleging voter intimidation

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A voting rights group and others filed a lawsuit against President Trump and administration officials on Wednesday, alleging their actions have amounted to voter intimidation.

The lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia less than two weeks from Election Day names Trump, Attorney General William Barr and acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf as defendants. 

Mi Familia Vota Education Fund, an advocacy group for Latino voters, and two registered voters assert in the 53-page complaint that all three officials have violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Ku Klux Klan Act and the Constitution. The group is represented by Free Speech for the People, Mehri & Skallet and Emery Celli.

The beginning of the complaint lists six actions the officials have taken that the plaintiffs said were equivalent to voter intimidation.

The actions in question include calling on Trump supporters to serve as “‘poll watchers,’” sending law enforcement to polling stations, having “sabotaged” mail delivery, threatening mail-in voting and those ballots’ ability to be counted, proposing to delay the election and not committing to a peaceful transition of power.

“Defendants’ actions over the past five months make these threats terrifyingly credible,” the complaint said. “Defendants have displayed a willingness to use the full force of the federal government to suppress constitutionally protected activity and incite private actors to do the same.”

“The pattern of conduct described above has had, as a foreseeable impact, an objective intimidating effect on eligible voters,” the complaint adds.

The complaint also criticized the administration for sending federal law enforcement to respond to protests “perceived to be in opposition to him” and not to demonstrations of those “perceived to support him.”

The plaintiffs called for preliminary injunction preventing the officials “from continuing to engage in this unconstitutional and illegal intimidation.” Mi Familia Vota also requested the president be stopped from urging supporters to openly carry guns at polling locations and block access. 

The group seeks for Trump to stop using “official governmental public communications channels” and his Twitter account to suggest votes cast properly will be challenged, Ron Fein, a co-counsel with Free Speech for People, told Courthouse News

Trump has repeatedly claimed in the last few months that mail-in voting opens up the election to voter fraud amid the coronavirus pandemic. States across the U.S. have seen a spike in early and mail-in voting due to concerns that in-person voting will put people at risk of contracting the coronavirus. 

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a Trump appointee, this summer made sweeping changes to the U.S. Postal Service, claiming that they were made to save the agency money.

However, DeJoy backed off these changes earlier this year, stating that they would not be made until after the election after criticism that they would lead to delays in mail delivery.

The president has also requested his supporters to monitor for fraud in their own communities and instructed the Proud Boys, a right-wing organization, to “stand back and stand by” in the first presidential debate.

Trump has said that he would agree to a peaceful transition of power if Democratic nominee Joe Biden wins the election, with the caveat that the election is fair.

Tags 2020 election 2020 presidential election Chad Wolf Donald Trump Joe Biden Lawsuit Louis DeJoy voter intimidation voters voting rights Voting Rights Act William Barr

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